I’ve been filming scenes all over the world for quite some time and really enjoy the process. On top of that, I make good money from those videos, and you can, too. It’s easier than you might think. One thing my students always tell me is how much fun… and surprisingly easy… filming is.
You just need to get the basics down to start.
Here are tips for shooting video in any national park or city you visit, using a DSLR or camcorder.
I’ve filmed in over 15 national parks in the U.S. No matter the size, I like to approach the challenge in a similar way.
1. Scout out the best spots
National parks usually have a visitor center with very helpful staff that can show you the highlights on a map and tell you where the most scenic spots are. It also helps finding images you think are stunning on Google and asking the staff to identify where those spots are. You’ll also want to consider the time of day and position of the sun when you go to those spots.
2. Shoot more than you need
Remember, your end product is only 60 seconds long. Each shot in the video should be about 3 to 5 seconds — not much longer or shorter. That means you only need 15 to 20 different shots in your final video. But as a novice, it’s a good idea to capture at least 50 shots in about 20 different locations to give you plenty of options.
3. Vary your angles and focal lengths
To get those 50 shots, use different angles and focal lengths to capture extra shots of the 20 locations you’ve identified as the best.
There are three different types of shots: wide, medium, and close-up shots. If you’re using a zoom lens of around 24-105mm, then a wide shot is 24mm. A medium shot would be your lens about halfway out and your main subject covering half of your frame. A close-up means your lens is all the way out and you’re capturing something fairly close to your lens that covers most of your screen.
It’s usually the close-up detail shot that people neglect to capture and include in their videos, to the detriment of the finished video, so be on the look-out for those.
4. Use a tripod (if you don’t have one, skip to tip 5, below…)
When you go out and film, bring a video tripod with a fluid pan-head for your panning shots.
Try to plan your panning by carefully looking at a first and a last frame before you start recording and then moving slowly between those two frames after you have tested them out that way. These two frames should be good enough to use as photographs—that way, you know you’re getting great shots. Additionally, your fixed angle shots at the beginning or end can be used in the worst-case scenario that your panning was too fast or the speed was not consistent.
Start filming for about five seconds without moving the fluid pan-head and then pan slowly left or right for about 10 seconds and leave the camera running for another five seconds at the end. This way you have 20 seconds of footage to choose from.
5. If you don’t have a fluid pan-head tripod
If you don’t have the right equipment, then don’t try to pan. Instead, fix your camera on your tripod and take fixed-angle shots that are about 20 seconds in length. That may seem like a lot of time but, trust me, when you’re editing you will be grateful for the time.
The principles are much the same for getting city video as for national park, aside from a few aspects.
1. Do your research
When you’re shooting in a city, you won’t have helpful park rangers to tell you where the most rewarding and photogenic locations are and what people can do in town. But a quick look on TripAdvisor will identify the top 10 things to do.
Use these as your jumping-off points. In Denver, for example, some of the top sites will be the Confluence Park and the Modern Art Museum, the botanical gardens, and Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as the Museum of Natural History and the adjoining park.
Check out TripAdvisor now to see where the top-rated sights are in your town.
2. Vary your subject matter
As with shooting a national park, you should choose about 20 to 30 different spots to shoot from—but that doesn’t involve as much legwork in a city as you might expect. Even moving your tripod to a different location counts as a new location if you capture a different motif.
And, feel free to capture the same motif in different focal lengths. The more footage you have the more you have to choose from when you’re editing your final video story.
Putting it all together
Once you have all the shots you need, you’ll then start the task of editing the video into a finished product.
Check out this tutorial if you’re a Mac user:
Or if you’re a Windows user, go here:
There you have all the information you need to get started. I’m looking forward to seeing your finished product!
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